By age two, your toddler should be offered three healthy meals a day, plus one or two snacks. She can eat the same food as the rest of the family. With her improved language and social skills, she’ll become an active participant at mealtimes if given the chance to eat with everyone else. Do not fixate on amounts and do not make mealtimes a battle. Do, however, pay attention to adopting healthy eating habits and making healthy food choices as a family. Sitting as a family at mealtime is the beginning of a good habit, too!
Toddlers are still learning to chew and swallow efficiently, and may gulp food when in a hurry to get on with playing. For that reason, the risk of choking is high, so avoid the following foods, which could be swallowed whole and block the windpipe.
• hot dogs (unless sliced lengthwise, then across)
• whole raw carrots
• spoonfuls of peanut butter
• nuts (especially peanuts)
• raw cherries with pits
• round, hard candies or gum
• raw celery
• whole grapes
Ideally, make sure your child eats from each of the basic four food groups each day.
Don’t be alarmed, however, if he doesn’t always meet this ideal. Many toddlers resist eating certain foods, or for long periods insist on eating only one or two favorite foods. The more you struggle with your child over his eating preferences, the more determined he’ll be to defy you. As we suggested earlier, if you offer him a variety of foods and leave the choices to him, he’ll eventually consume a balanced diet on his own. He may be more interested in healthful foods if he can feed them to himself. So, whenever possible, offer him finger foods (i.e., fresh fruits or raw vegetables other than carrots and celery) instead of cooked ones that require a fork or spoon to eat.
Now is the time to start to limit sweets, treats and junk foods. Beware of foods marketed for toddlers that are high in sugar. There is no nutritional value to fruit juice and sweetened beverages. We recommend that your child only be offered milk and water with juice as a special treat.
Offer 12-20 ounces of nonfat milk each day. More than 20 ounces of milk a day can interfere with the absorption of iron and can cause iron deficiency anemia. As well, excess milk consumption can interfere with your baby’s appetite for other nutritious foods.
A vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day is recommended for all children.